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Facebook + 9/11 = Vietnam

By Leroy James King · May 14, 2010

Fellow blogger Chloe Bohne inspired me with her latest entry regarding the SNL/Betty White thing. In the context of forever, Facebook is a phenomenon – a media and communication game changer that essentially blew up over night. And I guess (with a gun to my head) had to pick a favorite thing about it is that high school reunions are basically obsolete now. Privacy, the unknown, mystery is gradually being removed from the public sphere. Whereas 20 years ago, it could take years to hear about how Johnny Football knocked up Sandy the Cheerleader and got married and divorced and then married again inside of 6 months, they’re more than happy to broadcast this in real time now with pics and pokes to boot. We’re creating a social omniscience really rapidly. But do we even getthe consequences of what we’re doing? I promise this relates to screenwriting, trust me…


A traipse down memory lane…

Once upon a time at my quaint Midwest state university in October 2004, my friend Kinka called me on my dorm phone and was like, “Lee, you gotta come up to my dorm. I’ve got something crazy to show you.” Me being me, I was hopeful she was going to show me how perfect her breasts looked bare of any needless, frilly textiles (for Kinka was and is a goddess), but alas – I arrived at her room and she was hunched over her computer wearing about 5 layers of loose fitting clothing. From the fatigue tears in her eyes and the manic gait with which she greeted me at the door, it was apparent she’d been hunched for quite a while.

Kinka: “I found this amazing website. You remember that guy in high school we always called Dookie Chute?”

Me: “Yes, yes I do.”

Kinka: “Well look at this.”

She dragged me to her desk and brought up a webpage. In front of me were the basic details of Dookie Chute’s personal life.

Kinka: “Pretty awesome, [cracked out sniffle] right?

Me: “I mean… sure…? How about… that one dumb ass that always used to try to get you and Joan to have lesbian makeout sessions on the bus?”

Kinka: “Oh, he’s right here.”

Click, click, click and the lesbian obsessed Douche Hound was there, picture and all. About 4 hours later, I left Kinka’s room and immediately set up my own profile.

Now… almost 6 years, 900 friends, and an ungodly amount of hours wasted later, I’ve on this very day deactivated my Facebook account. Well sort of. I unfriended everyone, got rid of all my pictures, and took out every detail about myself (TSL apparently wants me to start interacting with our FB page because our fans will monkey-see/monkey-do… so I have to keep it activated). But yeah, it’s done. I severed the tie. Fuck your wall posts, your shitty digital gifts that cost real money, your headshot and model photos that some creep took of you to catch you in slutty poses… fuck all of it. Bah! And the worst is when you meet someone at a bar our whatever and it goes really well and then you both are like “yeah, I’m on Facebook,” so then you rush home (or as I started to do, wait until really late 2 nights later) and search and search and search and apparently there’s like 264,344 Josephine McCloys in the world. Fuck!

Obviously these are my personal beefs with Facebook. The reason I’m really bringing it up because, if you don’t already know… wait for it… wait for it… there’s going to be a Facebook movie aptly titled The Social Network. No it’s not a Rom Com about my old pals Dookie Chute and Douche Hound (which on second thought isn’t a bad idea). It’s about the history of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and how he launched it as something to piss off an old girlfriend. It’s actually not a bad story as far as Hollywood biopics go. And it’s getting the fucking golden touch:

Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Staring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake

So yeah – obviously Facebook has changed a ton of shit, and yeah, it’ll probably make an interesting movie given the impetus of the network’s invention, and the quality of talent attached. No argument there.

But I guess my problem with it is… well Facebook was only made 6 years ago and has only been open to anyone (over the age of 13) for 4 years. Which brings me to the question, who decides when enough time has passed to make a movie about social events or things or people or whatever?

In my opinion, before one can really have a keen perspective on something historical, it seems like more time’s gotta pass. 6 years is the blink of an eye in the grand scheme. What real perspective do we have, other than the fact that businesses can now have free webpages via Facebook, or that dating and meeting people just got weirder and more awkward or that you’re bombarded with too much needless information and more and more people are wasting more and more time surfing the abyss of personal drivel data? I mean, I get that it’s a biopic more than anything (at least that’s the impression I’m getting) – an account of how it all began and everything. But I guess it leaves me wondering if maybe we’re starting to rush into historical movie fare.

For instance, take United 93, which was released during the first quarter of 2006, not quite five years after 9/11, and World Trade Center, released during the summer of the same year. I get that there’s an urgency to “remember” these events and keep them in the social consciousness – after being plagued with graphic, horrific media of the 9/11 atrocity, there was a sudden falloff of this kind of information in the public sphere (mind you, not the blogosphere). So after 5 years, it was deemed appropriate to bring it back into the social consciousness. But did these movies really need to be released? A couple beefs:

1) We have no idea what happened on United 93, and in the film there’s the conspicuous lack of any minorities on the plane other than the terrorists, and a total absence of children on the plane. Yeah, I know – that would be really disturbing… but wouldn’t they rather get it right? And isn’t it important to show that, yes, there’s a plethora of different colored and cultured Americans?

2) World Trade Center was rated PG-13. I get that they wanted to open this film up to a wide audience, as it’s a story of selflessness and courage more than anything – it just so happened that it took place on 9/11 in New York City. I mean, if we’re going to remember these events for what they were, shouldn’t they have been depicted as they were? Terrifying and graphically disturbing. I think for this kind of movie to have the intended effect that was necessary, it should have been more in the vein of Saving Private Ryan – brutally honest.

The thing is, we’ve been jumping the gun on “remembering” since… the beginning of film more or less. But think about World War II cinema – these films were being made while we were still fighting. And I get the context for that – these films were morale boosters more than anything – stories of courage and triumph over evil – Star Wars movies in their own sort of right. It wasn’t until after the war that films like Stalag 17 came up to give a more bleak, tried and true account of the war, a full 8 years after the fact.

And I know I’ve brought this up before… but then there’s Vietnam War cinema. The fucked up thing about Nam movies is that, yes, a lot of them were made more or less a year after our official extraction. Yeah, it was an epic, never-ending, fucked up war – but out of respect, I think it would have been more appropriate to wait until soldiers could come back to the States and get some real perspective on the whole thing. To boot, this was the first war when we had a smart media sense as a world at large. International news was a very real thing, and the look of the news reel footage being broadcast night after night was wholly cinematic. It wasn’t the grainy video footage we’re used to seeing from the Middle East – it was vivid, 8 and 16mm film. I know this seems like a minor detail, but if you know the aesthetic differences between film and video, it’s staggering. Film  basically makes anything feel like a movie.

I’ve mentioned this in a previous entry (can’t remember which one, so have fun looking for it), but select Vietnam veterans asked during the 80s and 90s (and to this day) have gone on record saying they more or less have no personalmemories of the war – that they can only really remember the footage they’ve seen of it and the films that have released, simply because the Vietnam War quickly developed a cinematic ethos – soldiers and our populous weren’t given time to process what happened and why. We quickly made snap judgment media because it was bankable, and in the end, millions suffered from it. Marita Sturken goes in depth on all this subject matter in her book Tangled Memories, much more eloquently than I have here.

And how could we have known this sort of mass forgetting would take place? I guess we had no idea. But now we do. So lets man up a little and let perspective breathe. Take a beat, Hollywood studios – let us process the information. Ask yourself, “Is it too soon?” then when it doesn’t feel like it’s too soon anymore… wait another 5 years.

Now, I don’t really think The Social Network really falls into this category – it was simply a jumping off point for me to get into all of this. But is this movie (just maybe) the embodiment of something bigger going on? As a global community, are we maybe paying way too much attention to Facebook and our digital relationships? So much so that we’re making a movie about it? Because the consensus is pretty unanimous – people use Facebook to waste time, and they admit as much. Does it really deserve the reverence of an A-list Hollywood feature, our most universal procrastination vice?

I mean, I’m gonna see it. Fucking Fincher, dude. I’d watch a biopic about Bea Arthur if he made it.


Some Facebook haikus:

I poked you, Douche Hound
And saw that you married Jan
I hate your baby

Status updates blip
Got the stimuli fever
I stalk you nightly

Don’t fucking tag me
You know that I was blackout
My mom will see this

Some Facebook haikus:
I poked you, Douche Hound
And saw that you married Jan
I hate your baby
Status updates blip
Got the stimuli fever
I stalk you nightly
Don’t fucking tag me
You know that I was blackout
My mom will se